FC Barcelona Return To Four Man Midfield For Athletic Bilbao Clash


FC Barcelona will return to a four-man midfield system against Athletic Club in Bilbao on Sunday.

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FC Barcelona will return to a four-man midfield system for Sunday’s La Liga meeting away at Athletic Club in Bilbao, according to reports.

There were claims that head coach Xavi Hernandez would play the same 4-3-3 fielded against Valencia last time out at Camp Nou.

For the 1-0 win where Barca had to defend with 10 men for 35 minutes, Ansu Fati and Raphinha were placed on the left and right wing while Ferran Torres was the central ‘9’ standing in for an injured Robert Lewandowski.

Despite the Pole returning from his thigh knock in San Mames, reports had suggested that Xavi would stick with 4-3-3 with the same front line save for Lewandowski replacing Torres.

According to SPORT on Sunday morning, however, Gavi’s suspension being lifted means that Xavi will revert back to the four-man midfield system that has been a cornerstone of Barca’s success since the turn of 2023.

The strategy first came to global prominence in the January Spanish Super Cup Final against Real Madrid. In Riyadh, Gavi was deployed as a false left winger scoring two goals and providing an assist in a 3-1 win that brought Xavi his first piece of silverware since taking over in the dugout in November 2021.

Gavi will take up such responsibilities this weekend, with Frenkie de Jong likely forming a double pivot with captain Sergio Busquets as Franck Kessie attempts to supply the attack in a more advanced position.

With a six-point lead at the summit, picking up a win is important for Barca ahead of El Clasico on March 19.

Real Madrid won 2-1 against Espanyol on Saturday, but Barca can improve the deficit to nine points again and then 12 by winning their next two games against Athletic Club and Los Blancos.

Xavi vowed at his pre-match press conference that Barca “won’t play with the handbrake on.”

“First tomorrow’s game, and then we’ll think about the Clasico. Tomorrow’s game is as important or more important than the Clasico,” he stressed, also saying that keeping the nine-point advantage is “key” to lifting the Spanish top flight title for the first time in four years.

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